Extinction-level asteroid could collide with Earth in 2175
Published Monday, August 1, 2016 5:34PM EDT
It’s the end of the world as we know it. Well, maybe it’s the end of the world as our great- great- great- great-grandchildren will know it.
Scientists believe that an asteroid named 101955 Bennu could be on a direct collision-course with Earth. Possible date of impact? 2175.
“It is what we call an Earth-crossing asteroid,” York University astrophysics and astronomy professor Paul Delaney told CTV News Channel on Monday. Bennu is one of hundreds of celestial bodies flying through space on a possible collision course.
“Keeping an eye on all of these objects… is a bit of a preoccupation for many, many astronomers,” Delaney says.
Bennu, which measures nearly 500 metres in diameter, is large enough to dramatically alter life on Earth, if it ever collided with our planet.
“These are what we call extinction-level objects,” Delaney says of Bennu-sized asteroids. “If they were to come in contact with us, you’d have the same sort of scenario as the dinosaurs all over again.”
Scientists believe that there is a one-in-2,700 chance that Bennu will strike the Earth between 2175 and 2196.
“But gosh, there’s a lot of time between now and then and a lot of thing can change in the inner solar system,” Delaney says.
The asteroid, which orbits the sun every six years, was first discovered in 1999. To better understand the asteroid, NASA will be launching OSIRIS-Rex in September. The unmanned spacecraft will collect samples from Bennu and return them to Earth in 2023.
“The aim of the mission is manifold, but not the least of which to understand this object from the perspective of, if we have to move it, how would we?” Delaney says.
“In other words, how massive is it? How strongly held together is it? These are the sorts of things which will help our ability to determine how best to deflect or destroy these objects in the future.”
Although we’ve seen Earth-threatening asteroids obliterated in Hollywood blockbusters such as “Armageddon,” Delaney says we’re still a long way off from executing such a monumental feat.
“We don’t really have that technology at the moment, although we are working on it.”